The Work of Your Local Sierra Club in 2011
In February 2011, the Sierra Club commented on the City of Santa Cruz Climate Action Plan. We brought up the issues of reducing GHG emissions, sea level rise, flooding, preserving adequate flood space and space for riparian corridors in the city.
Our Coastal Committee Chair, Aldo Giacchino, has been meeting with groups that are working on policy and challenges to Desal development. The Sierra Club also co-sponsored a forum on desalination with Desal Alternatives. The City of Santa Cruz Water Department's Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), has been underway since 2002. The Sierra Club wrote to the City of Santa Cruz requesting them to convene a stakeholder working group and open up the HCP process. This is quite common in public agency HCPs but the City refused to do so. When released, the HCP will be accompanied by a National Environmental Policy Act EIS and an EIR, a CEQA document and other documents requiring review.
Conservation Chair Mike Guth continued his work with the County on improving the Santa Cruz County Storm Water Management Plan implementation with the adoption of an effective Storm Water Ordinance. Mike Guth and Kevin Collins have reviewed documents that require a thorough understanding of pollution laws, local geography, and development patterns. Members of the Forestry and Water Committees worked with the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water to stand up to large agribusinesses, opposing weakening of new regulations to control discharges of nitrate and pesticide-laden water into creeks and sloughs.
Zoning and Land Use
The County has continued a reform process, begun in 2007, resulting in the weakening of zoning standards and building code. Kevin Collins worked with the Rural Bonny Doon Association and the San Lorenzo Valley Water District to challenge the most recent set of proposed changes. This code change proposal will be heard again by the County Board of Supervisors in early 2012. These codes are especially important in the rural areas of the County where impacts on wildlife and water resources are most acute. Kevin Collins sent a Government Records Act request to the County in 2011 asking for records of the last 2 years of "exceptions" to the Riparian Protection Ordinance. This crucial ordinance appears to no longer be functioning to protect County streams.
Forestry and Watersheds
The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County released their blueprint for preservation of sensitive ecosystems in Santa Cruz County. Our Forestry consultant, Jodi Frediani, had many comments on the sections on forests and watersheds. Jodi also made comments on the shuttered Cemex Plant and San Vincente Creek. The land has recently been purchased by five land trusts, including Sempervirens Fund, but concerns remain about continued logging on the property. Several logging plans, including the Soquel State Demonstration Forest plans, were reviewed and comments submitted in an attempt to reduce the harm to natural resources. Jodi joined a coalition of organizations concerned with logging in the Battle Creek watershed in the Sacramento Basin, one of the critical habitat streams for endangered Winter and Spring Run Chinook salmon, and testified at a hearing before the Board of Forestry in Sacramento. The King Salmon (Chinook) caught off shore from Santa Cruz primarily originate in the Sacramento River system.
The SC County Group sent letters and comments to the Coastal Commission and the County regarding coastal development proposals, including the proposed 5-1/2 story La Bahia Hotel proposal, the Schwann Lagoon Coastal Trail and the Pleasure Point road reconstruction.
In collaboration with Friends of Arana Gulch and the Center for Biological Diversity, the Club worked to protect critical habitat of the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant and its associated web of life species in Arana Gulch. Club leaders also led hikes in Moore Creek, Pogonip and Arana Gulch greenbelts, so members could learn about the uniqueness of each of the City's greenbelts.
The Sierra Club wrote letters and testified in support of the Regional Transportation Commission's purchase of the Union Pacific Rail Line, a goal that finally was achieved this year. Our Transportation Chair, Paul Elerick, worked with the Campaign for Sensible Transportation on the lawsuit opposing widening of Highway 1, which unfortunately was dismissed in court in San Francisco.
Our Events Committee started a series of Environmental Education talks that have been well attended. Two events took place last year, one presented by Jodi Frediani about the Humpback Whales off the Dominican Republic, and another presentation by Joe Jordan on alternative energy and practical home development of solar energy. The Group is also sponsoring a new "Meetup" page for hikes.
The Group has a new webmaster, Michael Lewis, and has started a new, interactive website with an updated calendar of SC County activities. Kevin Collins, has started Convio emails to Sierra Club members. Kevin has revived the email alert network for activists.
You can be Involved
The Sierra Club always needs new energy to be effective. There are many volunteer opportunities in the Sierra Club from administrative support to environmental analysis and lobbying, to membership development and outings.
Thanks, and have a good new year.
Santa Cruz County Group of the Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club
Last Updated 1/5/12